Washington Grape Syrah or Merlot?

California is known for the Cabernet Sauvignon, big, bold, beautiful and sometimes over the top (kind of like the California lifestyle).

Oregon is known for its lighter, earthy, liberal, organic Pinot Noir (similar to the people who live there, eh).

New York is producing quality Riesling ranging from sweet to off dry, this opulant varietal is often misunderstood but pairs well with tons of food (akin to the oft mis-understood and passionate New Yorker).

What about Washington? Is Washington the Merlot king – underappreciated, oft-maligned, but delightfully robust? Or, is Syrah the fruit of the Evergreen State – deep purple with bright bold berry and hints of smoke on the water?

I asked informally on Twitter a week ago and the vote was pretty close.

  • 10 Merlot, 8 Syrah, 4 Riesling, 2 Chardonnay, 2 Bordeaux Blend

This is research for a future article on a national web site as well as a potential tasting event. Please use the voting buttons and share, re-tweet this with friends. Thanks for your participation.

If you have a favorite WA Wine / Winery or select “other” please share in the comments!


drinknectar

Owner of Nectar Tasting Room in Spokane, WA. (@nectarwine) Publisher of Spokane Wine Magazine (@spowinemag), author, speaker, consultant and internet marketer with Nectar Media (@nectarmedia)

27 comments on “Washington Grape Syrah or Merlot?

  1. Pingback: uberVU - social comments

    1. drinknectar

      Ahh, we’ll see, Kevin. I would really like to get a good vote count here. Maybe 100 votes? Like for some of the wineries to weigh in too.

      Reply
  2. Nancy

    Northstar Merlot is one of the favorites in our house!

    Reply
  3. Ben Simons

    I have had all kinds of great wines from Washington, but some of the absolute best Merlot that I’ve ever had came from there. I’m with Nancy on the Northstar, and I’ve really enjoyed some Barnard Griffin Merlot as well. Great stuff.

    Reply
  4. Tom Lee

    Casting my vote for Syrah, Josh.

    Reply
  5. Kevin Glowacki

    For most consumers, I’d say Merlot is the answer. I’m a bit surprised by the results and not sure if that is good or bad, since from a retailers perspective, Syrah (outside of $20 and under Aussie) was always a really tough sell.

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Kevin, I get your drift on that one. The Merlot is a much easier sell because the quality is good, the price is more moderate and the availability is higher. The average consumer just doesn’t understand the value difference of a nice $80 WA Syrah and the $8 Yellow Tail Shiraz.

      Josh

      Reply
  6. Ed Thralls

    With the wines we reviewed last month, there was some very good Merlot and a lot more of it available. However, K Syrah was nice too.

    Reply
  7. JJ

    I was torn between voting for Merlot and Bordeaux Blends… I ended up going for the Bordeaux Blends. We share a similar latitude with the region and I think if you look at the best wines WA has produced over the last decade, they are in the Bordeaux style. I am also casting my vote in this way because I consider Bordeaux to be a more inclusive choice (one that includes the great WA Merlots) that signifies the style/type of wine we’re making, rather than singling out a specific varietal.

    Reply
  8. Gwendolyn

    So I voted for Merlot because that’s what I think Washington has become known for in the country… in particular, GOOD Merlot and I do love the Merlot coming from there. BUT, I am a huge fan of the Syrah (and Rhone varieties from there in general – just try some of McCrea vineyards Mourvedre and it will rock you!) and think that may overtake Merlot. Point is – Merlot is what I think WA is known for now, but my favorite these days is Syrah and think that may win in the future!

    Reply
  9. JJ

    BTW sweet picture of a Red Mountain vineyard. Unmistakable Yakima River, Saddleback, and Rattlesnake in the background.

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      You’ve got a keen 1Eye JJ! Red Mountain is so under-rated. Great stuff!

      Reply
  10. Catie

    There is only one thing in the world that is better than chocolate and week-day sex – - and that is a Merlot made with fruit from the Walla Walla Valley.

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Catie! I like how you think, although I’m not sure there is much better than week-day sex! Cheers!

      Reply
  11. Barb

    Syrah. We have many different microclimes that coax different nuances from this grape. There are big mouthfuls such as Cayuse and elegant florals from Crayelle. Yes, I know that Syrahs can be a hard fought handsell…..but there is wonderful potential.

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Several great comments here in the post. Syrah seems to be a darling (especially among wine enthusiasts) but Merlot seems to be what put WA on the map (and arguably Riesling too). Is Merlot damaged goods b/c of Sideways?

      Merlot is probably the easier sell as the price points tend to be lower. Certainly not a clear hands down choice for the wine that best represents Washington State.

      Reply
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  13. Darren

    Love WA state Merlot, but I think Syrah has more potential.

    Reply
  14. Pingback: A Blind Tasting of Washington Reds | Wine Tonite!

  15. Sip with Me!

    Well, I voted for Merlot but agree with the consensus that Washington’s producing amazing Syrah and Bordeaux blends. Merlot’s reputation has been temporarily, soiled but she cleans up nicely with a little time.

    Reply
  16. Uncorked

    Agree with the Merlot comments. A grape that does very, very well in WA. Vineyard to vineyard quality can be an issue, but the better managed vineyards produce grapes in the most amazing of our merlots.

    Reply
  17. rocketwineguy

    My vote for best known went to merlot, even though I am a syrah lover. Yes, merlot took a hit from the Sideways movie (kinda like the hit to the head the guy took from sandra oh’s character) but it may be on the comeback. I agree with the post about mourvedre and other varietals rising in popularity, so we will see…

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      The #WAMerlot event was tonight 3/25! I hope you were able to participate in some way.

      Reply

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